Judiciary Committee Holds Lopsided SOPA Hearing Today

November 16, 2011

The House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on broad new Internet regulations, which have been opposed by cybersecurity experts, technology and consumer electronic business associations, law professors, free speech groups, venture capitalists and Internet users. Unfortunately none of these opponents was given a seat at the lopsided hearing today.

Much of the Twitter traffic during the hearing lamented they couldn’t even hear more about the bill to censor the Internet and make some streaming a felony because the audio stream out of the hearing room wasn’t working.

While drafting a bill in response to the needs of the pornography and entertainment industry is understandably a jobs issue, the Stopping Online Piracy Bill does nothing to mitigate the economic burden it will create for tech and telecommunications companies. The National Economic Council has found the Internet adds $2 trillion to our economy each year, and its consumption and expenditures have a greater impact on the economy than the energy and agricultural sectors. In these economic times we can’t afford to rush through complex and convoluted new Internet regulations that would cause so much collateral damage to our economy.

Computer & Communications Industry Association represents companies that employ 600,000 workers and generate revenue of more than $200 billion a year. This legislation threatens all Internet users and those employed by legitimate tech and telecommunications companies who would be targeted by the bill.

The following comments can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“While U.S. companies, including those CCIA represents depend on copyright law, the choice between rampant infringement and this overly burdensome plan to censor the Internet and cast tech and telecom companies as newly deputized patrol officers is a false choice. We can reduce piracy without censoring the Internet.

“If this were really a bill that narrowly combated foreign, rogue websites would there be such diverse opposition from cyber security experts, technology associations, venture capitalists, law professors, free speech advocates and Internet users? If this legislation really makes sense, why would supporters take these steps to rush it through to a vote without listening to opponents – especially Internet engineers who warn of the imminent dangers to the architecture of the Internet, upon which so many jobs depend?

“On top of not giving any of the diverse groups opposing SOPA a seat in the hearing room to speak, the audio in the hearing room broke early on – not allowing the thousands of people listening over the Internet to hear the details of this censorship plan under consideration. This lack of speaking and listening has been a continued frustration and led to such a flawed bill. I’d liken it to killing mosquitoes with an uzi, but at least the uzi hits its target. This bill will fail to actually stop traffic to infringing sites and will Balkanize Internet traffic, sending the real pirates to foreign DNS servers that can’t easily be monitored.

“Part of the problem of not having a technical expert testifying today is the many misconceptions heard go unchallenged. Understanding the technology behind the Internet is complicated, and there are certainly signs from the statements today that members are being misled by those demanding this bill. But it would seem members should want to test that and discover the truth by being able to ask questions of all sides – at least some time before enacting such sweeping legislation that changes a key platform for our economic growth.”

“The misconceptions at this hearing are outrageous to those who understand how the Internet works and the laws currently in place to combat the real problem of online piracy. One representative even mistakenly stated that tech companies do nothing or next to nothing to curb piracy. What he and many others don’t understand is that tech companies have very real incentives under current law to respond quickly to reports of online infringement. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides liability protections to US companies for what users do on their sites. But that protection only comes in exchange for their cooperation in taking down infringing material when they’re alerted to it. So tech companies embrace this law and spend countless hours devoted to helping enforce existing laws. In fact, Google has had 5 million take downs today in response to DMCA – all without this new law – and they’re just one tech company.

“Tech companies stand ready to help curb online piracy in ways that are effective and don’t cause damage to the Internet’s architecture. We look forward to further discussions with members of Congress on how we could work together to do this.”

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